Blogs and Commentary

posted 07.09.2012 at 11.35 a.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Five Big Picture Thoughts for U19 World Games

With just a few hours left before the U.S. under-19 men's national team takes off from New York for Finland, it's time to take a big picture look at what may transpire July 12-21 in Turku at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Under-19 World Championships. Here are five things I'll be watching. (This is a spinoff of "Working off the Weekend: Five Things to Know" for you dedicated fans out there.)

1. Does Team USA make it seven gold medals in a row?

The U.S. under-19 men's national team is 36-0 all-time in international play since the U19 World Championships were sanctioned in 1988. They've won all six gold medals, and the goal this time is No. 7.

A 15-14 loss to a group of Philadelphia all-stars on June 23, even with some comeback effort that came up short, re-focused the team ahead of its final exhibition in New Jersey. The U.S. won that weather-shortened contest, 9-4, to head into training camp over the weekend with a good feeling.

"Everybody was mad after the loss," midfielder Tyler Barbarich said. "We finished the game, instead of playing only the second half. We put it away earlier, to the point where they couldn't come back. We didn't want to lose again."

Defenseman Stephen Jahelka, goalie Zach Oliveri and midfielder Rob Zoppo were voted captains by their teammates on Saturday at training camp at Bryant University in Rhode Island.

Meet the full team here.

2. Do the Canadians have what it takes?

The Canadian influence on the American college game has been well documented with players from north of the border populating Division I men's college rosters across the United States.

Team Canada's roster and coaching staff is for real this world games. Wes Berg (Denver), Chad Tutton (North Carolina) and Jesse King (Ohio State) all played prominent roles on their teams as freshman. There's something to be said for having a full season of college competition in hand with the travel bags to Finland. Taylor Wray (Saint Joseph's) is the head coach.

The U.S. has beaten Canada in the championship game of the last three U19 men's World Championships.

3. Finland!

Turku, Finland is the site of these championships. It's the first time the games will be played in Europe. Turku is the oldest city in Finland and the country's fifth largest city by population currently. With a coastal location and a Northern latitude (equivalent of north of the U.S.-Canadian border), weather forecasts call for highs around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and lows around 55 with rain possible each day of the early parts of the tournament. There's also a lot of sunlight with late sunsets and early rises. We'll have more weather updates once we get there because we all know what they say about the weatherman.

Three of Team USA's first four games are scheduled for 7 p.m. Turku time, which is seven hours ahead of U.S. Eastern time. Here's the schedule.

4. The International Game

There are 12 countries participating in this tournament – Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Iroquois, Korea, Netherlands, Scotland, the United States and Wales. Several of the U.S. players have said they're eager to see how players from other countries play the game. I am, too. Tickets for the opening game Thursday between the home standing Finns and the Czech Republic have been sold out.

The U.S. begins competition against Australia at 7 p.m. Friday in the "Blue Division." Australia, England, Canada and Iroquois are in the U.S.'s pool play group.

5. Surprises

Something unexpected is bound to happen: players stepping up in surprising ways, an upset or unfamiliar storyline. A Teemu Selanne sighting perhaps. It's a large part of what makes these events great.

Follow and me on Twitter (@Corey_McL) for it all over the next two weeks.